Self Brokering | Reducing the cost of shipping

So you finally pulled the trigger and ordered those shiny new fatbike parts. You found them at a descent price, you have the money in your fatbike fund and the internal finance committee gave you the ok. Now you just have to wait . . . wait for the call.

“Hello, this is Package Delivery Company (PDC) you have a package crossing the boarder and it requires brokerage services. Do you want PDC to broker your package”

When goods cross country boarders tariffs/duties have to be paid. Essentially, the package delivery companies that move the goods - when they become your broker - pay these tariffs/duties and associated taxes to the government (on your behalf) and in turn charge you a fee for doing this. 
Living in Canada gives lots of exposure to paying tariffs/duties and I got a little tired of paying the additional fees.

Self Brokering 

Also called Self Clearing/Self Accounting it is essentially when you pay the tariffs/duties/taxes directly to the government and avoid the middleman – ie PDC. It's not an overly complicated process, however if you decide on giving it a whirl you should see if there is a Canada Boarder Services Agency (CBSA) office near you that can broker your package - link. If the nearest office is three-hours away, it may be worth getting PDC to be your broker. Where I live there is a CBSA office within a very short drive.

Getting the call

Although the PDCs generally post their rate sheets on-line, I normally ask the representative what is the fee for their brokerage service. I will use them if the fee is something I'm ok with paying, otherwise I tell the representative 
I would like to Self Clear/Self Account/Self Broker the parcel.  

Most times they understand and ask for my email and give me some high level instructions on next steps.  I have been instructed to physically go to the port of entry (several thousand km's away), but those folks are misinformed.  After I provide the representative with the required information and end the call, I call back to ensure that my request was actually noted on the system. 

When the package arrives

I tell the driver to return it to the PDC depot as I will be clearing the package through customs myself. They can deliver it again once it is cleared. Normally within a couple of hours (up to 24) I will receive an email from PDC containing a Commercial Invoice and Reference Page. I always read the Reference Page as there are specific instructions that must be followed and usually a deadline to return the completed documentation – normally 2 business days.

Sample Reference Page

Before heading to CBSA

I take a look at the most recent Customs Tariffs Guide (Customs Tariffs 2018) and print off the applicable pages referencing what I have ordered.

Source: CBSA

As of the guide issued January 1, 2018 all bicycle parts and accessories fall into the codes 8714.91.10 to 8714.99.90 and are pretty much tariff free. However, complete wheels (8714.99.10) have a 6.5% tariff and complete bikes (8712.00.00) a hefty 13% tariff. 

Visiting CBSA

I tell the Officer that I am self clearing a package and provide them with the Commercial Invoice, Reference Page and tariff printout. As there are 1000’s of tariff codes, I find that the Officers generally appreciate me providing the applicable codes to review. Once they confirm the code and ask a few questions, its time to pay up.

Source: CBSA

To date I have only had to pay applicable sales tax based on the stated value of the item(s). If the items were in USD, the value would be converted to CAD using the rate on the day the package entered Canada. The Officer then provides a B15 - Casual Goods Accounting Document that contains an Entry Number which confirms that the package is cleared.

B15 - Casual Goods Accounting Document

Almost done

The PDC Reference Page will provide a fax number and/or email to send the customs clearance documentation. I ensure that the Tracking Number and Entry Number are written clearly on each piece of documentation. I normally email the Reference Page, Commercial Invoice and B15.  Then I follow-up with a phone call to ensure it has been received, and ask them to redeliver the package as soon as possible after they have validated the Entry Number.

The package arrives

And finally the parcel of goodies arrive. A few times I had to follow-up with PDC as the package was late, but most times it arrives within two days of them getting the documentation.

Should you try it

It depends. I have mostly dealt with one PDC and while the overall process is the same and not complicated . . . there are details that seem to differ from time to time. And it does take longer to get your package. One package took an extra 10 days to get me and I learned from that experience to call and confirm every step. 

If I am not in a rush for a package and I have a little extra time, I will self clear and save a chunk of money. If I don’t have the time . . . I clench my teeth as I hand over my credit card number to the PDC for my shiny new fatbike bling.



  1. It wouldn't be simple since we have to learn the laws and rules of each and every country we are trying to import/export. If you are dealing with a specific trade agreement the rules will be different. If you don't know any of the guidelines, I suggest you consult on ACC customs clearance agents in Brisbane and let them do it for you. It will probably be a lot faster, and probably even cheaper by the time you factor in your time and frustration.

  2. And rules and trade agreements change from time to time, making it even more complicated for the ordinary fatbiker.


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